I get asked a lot about my favorite tools, and when I love something, trust me, I love nothing more than talking about it. So let’s talk about my favorite paint palette!
Now traditionally, an artist's palette was simply a wooden board with a hole for the thumb. But the palette has evolved over centuries into many shapes, sizes, and materials. For example, you can use a palette made from plexiglass, safety glass, or various kinds of plastic.
My personal favorite is Masterson's Sta-Wet Handy Palette, and it’s so cool! As the name hints, this little guy stays wet. I mean, it keeps your paint wet for like weeks!
The palette consists of a sponge layer covered by a paper layer and then the lid. You thoroughly wet both the sponge and the paper and then seal it with the airtight lid. And the paint stays wet. It’s like magic!
Acrylics dry out so quickly, and this is compounded if you live or work (hello, air cons!) in a dry climate. Imagine you’ve mixed up the perfect color, but it’s starting to dry on your palette. Or you need to return to your painting the next day. The palette saves you from both paint wastage and creative emotional distress.
The Sta-Wet comes with five pieces of paper that you can change out whenever you need and is designed chiefly with acrylics in mind. Of course, you can buy extra sheets of paper as you go.
The palette comes in multiple sizes and also has the option of mixing wells for your different mixtures of paint, mediums, or other solvents you wish to choose. However, oils can also be kept by removing the sponge insert and substituting conventional palette paper.
Here are a few tips I’ve accumulated over time for using a wet palette:
- If you’re going to go a few days without painting, you need to check and rewet the sponge. This is absolutely crucial in ensuring your paints don’t dry out. It’s not quite a set-it-and-forget-it deal.
- Make sure you’re also wetting the sponge well before you even start. It should be completely saturated.
- Place the paper in a sink or bucket of water so it gets really soaked through; it should be almost translucent before use.
- Don’t add too much paint to your palette. If a bit of water gets into the paint, it may spread a little, and you don't want it crossing into neighboring colors. You will figure it out as you go. Sometimes, I’ve noticed when the paper is wetter, my paints will spread more. So, it’s trying to find that happy balance of the paper being wet but not having pools of water on it.
- Distilled water can be a better choice for prepping the sponge and the paper, as it’s far more resistant to mold growth. Another good idea is to have a replacement sponge on hand so you can let one dry thoroughly while using another.
A painter’s palette is a very personal thing for many artists, so it can take some trial and error to find what you love. But in terms of practicality, this palette has been a little lifesaver for my work.